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How Do You Work with Clients You Don’t Like?

Sales professionals are in the people business.  That is what we do. But let’s face it: you won’t always like your clients and they won’t always like you.  It’s a fact of life.    When it’s your responsibility to manage a relationship, you have to figure out a way to make it work.

When salespeople aren’t fond of their clients, they often simply avoid them.  That’s not a viable approach.  After all, you are the liaison between your company and the client. If you don’t pay attention to them, your competitors will.

If a personality conflict is to blame for the lack of chemistry, changing salespeople is an option.  Technically this is another way of avoiding your client and is best reserved as a last resort.

The approach we recommend is to reframe your own thinking.  Specifically, try to identify characteristics that you like about the difficult individual (however small) and focus on them.  This directs the spotlight away from the problem area and will allow you to connect on another level.  Here are a few examples of things to look for:

Business expertise – Your relationship with the client is based on business anyway, making such matters a great talking point.   For example, if someone is self-centered and arrogant but knows a lot about the business, get them talking about it.  Ask them lots of questions that focus on their expertise, and keep them talking.  Learn from them or at least listen to their perspectives – they’ll love that you’re letting them talk about themselves.

Common interests – The same approach that helped you make new friends growing up can improve your working relationships.  Whether it’s a hobby, a favorite sport, or how your client spends his or her weekends, identify those commonalities and focus on them.  For example, if someone treats his or her people badly and that troubles you, talking about the Olympics and the individual’s passion for track and field can bring some harmony to the relationship.

Admirable characteristics – Everyone has a trait or interest that is worthy of praise.  Perhaps your client is a great parent, or is involved in important charity work, or likes to participate in community activities.  If you can find admirable characteristics about the individual and steer your energy in those directions, interacting with them becomes easier.

No, you won’t like every client you work with, and you won’t enjoy every relationship.  But you have to deal with that.   It’s part of the job description for every client-facing professional.  You can make it easier on yourself by focusing on an amiable characteristic, unique expertise or better yet, a common interest.  You’ll likely be more successful as a result.

Do you have any secrets to getting along with difficult clients? Let us know by leaving a comment!